ORDA 2012 May 8, 2012 InTrips Have you ever wondered how a perfect diving cave looks like?? It should probably have a perfect clarity, warm water, small depth and many corridors to always see something new:) I think that the caves of Mexico meet these criteria, but much closer to us, in the Ural mountains, there is Ordinskaja cave known as Orda, promoted during the recent two years by beautiful photos of Witij Leguszkin, which could be seen, among others, during the last Baltictech. Water here is incredibly clean and cold, and white gypsum walls create ideal conditions for filming and taking photos. For the last weeks we were there with Łukasz Piórewicz and we discovered the charms of this part of Russia where people are friendly, fuel is cheap, and places for diving are still not known entirely – because as it turned out, Orda is not the only diving attraction of the region of Yekaterinburg. We set off from Gdynia on 20 April, the road was, in fact, great – 1: 40 a.m. to Helsinki then 3 hours of flight to Yekaterinburg, the problem was that between these trips, there was a 12-hour break in Finland. We spent time at the airport browsing the Internet, because wi-fi (proving the power of mobile contacts) was problem-free. Later, we were joined by Teppo Lallukka and Phill Short who also went diving but in other directions. And so, in a nice atmosphere, we reached the much desired 11: 50 p.m. and we departed into the unknown. There we were awaited by my friend, Alexander Murzin, a local bisnessman and an active diver who promised to arrange for us the whole stay in Russia. Time difference between Orda and Poland is 4 hours, so after a short a new day came very quickly, and and after problem-free check-in at a big, modern airport, we turned to Sasha. Sasha is a wealthy man, so he came for us with the state-of-the-art Toyota Tundra where we put our 100 kg of equipment (per capita) and we went along a road full of holes towards the Cave. We had approximately 300 km ahead of us. We were a bit drowsy after a night without sleep, but outside the window it was too interesting to sleep. The road was packed with slow, smoky trucks and incredibly damaged. We moved majestically with our pick-up 80 km per hour and every now and then we were taken over by some crazy Russian driver who somehow managed to aviod a crash on these holes. The nature was the surprisingly poor, I expected abundant forest, but i saw only thin birch and incredible quantity of rubbish at the shoulders.We stopped half-way in the “Three Bears” restaurant, where we encountered for the first time the local toilets and heavy Russian food. Ordinskaja cave is located 2 km from the town of Orda. At the very cave, the quite well-prepared Scuba Diving Center is built. This place has virtually everything a diver needs. It only lacks Internet and running water. The latter causes some irritation in the beginning, but after some time it turns out that being cut off from daily information is quite healthy for your head, you can also get used to the lack of water. We were lodged in the nearby hospital where the so-called kwartiras are rented for travellers, the hospital is huge and completely unfit for the needs of the town where it was built, but that’s how it is in Russia, someone made a decision, so they they put a big structure here, and then they would worry about what to do. In our town, there is also a large sports facility, because Putin had such a plan, but supposedly there are not coaches there and the structure also also remains quite unused. We were thus accomodated in an empty hospital. And we went to the cave. In the area, there are lots of sinks and innundations, which clearly proves the presence of holes underground Some of them were very fresh and I had some weird thoughts, like “and what will happen, if a diver is in the cave and then another innundation happens”. We stated unanimously that we should not discuss such topics and we shot a couple of pictures. The cave itself is located on the bank of the river/lake Kangurka, the entrance is in the scarp and comfortable wooden stairs lead to it, in the dry part there are stairs and gangways welded from metal, along which, within a few minutes you can get to the water. The base, as I have already mentioned, is well organized It has drying rooms, a compressor, twins and in the backyard, new guest houses are built There are also ladies and gents rooms Łukasz, as we can see, chose the ladies room, I preferred the gents room, because in spite of the stink, it seemed more hygienic to me A great attraction was the local porter who, for the equivalent of 10 PLN, carried the cylinders and the equipment in and out of cave. All right, finally we also set up our gear, studied the map of the cave and went to the water We were already aware that the water was not as beautiful as in February, with no more than 20 meters of clarity. And in the beginning, it was slightly milky-white, but with each meter, the water was becoming better and better. Orda is incredible for two reasons, firstly – for clarity, and secondly – for white gypsum walls that extremely lighten the cave. One day the three of us were swimming with video lights, and then it was the best – we simply flew and not swam:) Unfortunately, it also has a disadvantage. It is a cave, which works and, like the Russians say – lives all the time. Sevral times times we were nearly hit on our heads with a stone with the size of a football, and in one of the tunnels, the main rope is crushed by a boulder with the size of a tub that fell off the ceiling 2 years ago. It does not make a good impression and it is difficult to get rid of our fears, especially, if our bubbles disappear somewhere at the ceiling with great noise. After the first checking dive, it was quite OK. We came back to our hospital/hotel. We talked all night on the local diving attractions, it turned out quickly that Orda is not the only cave nearby, but surely the best accessible one. In the morning we wend from Babinogorska cave, where the local divers build a vertical shaft to facilitate access to the cave. Can you imagine something like that elsewhere in the world?? Here, they simply bought a scrap of land from some chap, hired a few locals and drilled the vertical shaft, and reinforced the wall with concrete. Until the end of the year, they want to put a lift there to make using the cave easier. Below, there is the original entrance to the cave: We felt like diving there, but Sasha effectively convinced us the it would take 2 days before we carried everything to and from, and that the cave was narrow and not as beautiful as Orda. For us, it was enough, so we came back to the Base where we were awaited by Maxim wearing a local dud of Bz 400 jacket. Maxim perfectly knew the caves and since that time, we practically started to dive properly Orda is neither a specially difficult nor easy cave. Water here has the constant temperature of 5 degrees, the dry part of the cave during our stay had the temperature of -5 deg. and outside there were over 20 degrees and beautiful sun. All this created something like cryotherapy. Within a few moments, we changed temperature several times. The very entrance already under water is a meter by meter hole, which creates some difficulty. The Russians let there, in the presence of the guide, the OWD divers, which is a bit odd, but it was not the only thing to seem strange to us in Russia:) In the evening, after diving, we decided to come back to the Hospital on foot – through the fields and to take a few pictures of the area, because it looked really interesting. For example, the children were washing bicycles in the river: and among the rubbish lay a dead dog, and nobody noticed it the village is very peaceful and it’s hard to say what people do for living, nobody cultivates the land and most people live in old houses from before 100 years, sometimes “modernized” with siding People here fish, meet and talk in front of a shop and sip beer – kind of like in Poland We were invited by Russians to the European Championship in sports diving, CMAS, which took place 120 kilometres from Orda. At the beginning, we willingly agreed, but the closer we were to the departure, the smaller our enthusiasm became. We were to spend two days there, but we would regret not diving in the cave, so we went early in the morning to the town of Perm, where in a beautiful swimming pool, competition proceeded very slowly. We got stylish caps, we had colourful bands attached to our ankles and we were to take part in underwater wrestling, and not let our bands be torn off – instead, we were supposed to tear them off our opponents. Łukasz rapidly did it and became the international Polish champion, and I became the vice-champion; we had no other rivals 😉 We left the competition as quickly as possible, and there were a few interesting games ahead, such as picking weights from the bottom without masks, with masks, with and without a tube, and then the banquet. We regretted having missed this banquet, but we chose the caves and after a moment we rushed back, discussing the details of taking photos on the way. Łukasz and Sasha were going home on the next day, so we had the last chance to cooperate under water. Here is the result: at the end, we allowed ourselves a bit of madness Unfortunately in the evening the boys went home, and I was alone in the base, to make things easier I went from the hospital to the cave where, as I have already mentioned, there was no Internet or water. It turned out quickly that I could wash myself in a glass of water and the lack of water was no longer a problem. Also, the Internet turned out to be not as necessary as I thought, and I could do what people did in the 20th century, namely read books and talk. So far, there was nobody to talk to, because in the base there was was only the guard/porter, but first divers were to come for the weekend next evening. The guard told me about a magical lake on the other side of the bay, from which hectolitres of clean water flowed. Early in the morning, I got there and entered the pond mostly covered with waterweed. And under water – pure magic, water was very cold, no deeper than 1.5 m, and in the middle of the clay pit huge amounts of clean water sprang out from the bottom – it looked as if the bottom was boiling. In those places, underwater craters were formed, to the depth of 5 meters. After this enchanting performance, I came back to the cave, where first divers arrived. And, as usual everyone was a bit embarrassed, (because we did not know each other), but also showed off the diving skills and experience. I also wanted to show that I had been there for the whole week and I had known the cave well, but nobody wanted to listen to me. I was supposed to have some partner to dive with me, maybe even an instructor. Peaceful, quiet and empty Base, suddenly became crowded and loud. Three instructors began their courses and as usual, men began to walk among the trees, wearing dark masks and gloves, holding spread ropes and sometimes even holding hands.Also, Pascal Barnabe from France appear, a man very popular and esteemed in Russia, who appears there very often.I got used to the fact that the time passes slower there, so I watched how courses were conducted in Russia. The most interesting things was definitely the course by Pascal, it was conducted in English and 2 of 3 course participants did not know a word in this language. An instructor peacefully explained what was the long hose for and how a spinning wheel and a cave torch looked like – the students were clearly surprised that it was possible to communicate with a torch, because so far they used it only for night diving. They debated for nearly an hour on whether to wave it up and down, or from the right to the left, and I tried to watch the local television. Suddenly, they asked me how I thought they should communicate! I tried to avoid answering, saying that such things should be communicated by the instructor etc., but the course participants absolutely stated that, since I had been diving in America, I should know such things. They looked at me carefully and the room become silent. And so I was on the brink of a historical moment of establishing light communication standards in TDI and CMAS, in the entire Russia!!! I said “how it was done in America”, they nodded with understanding and returned to an animated discussion; what is interesting, the discussion was mostly in Russian, and the instructor was mostly silent. It was no surprise – after all, everyone had to start from something, however, a few days later I found out that what I observed was the course for cave instructors in TDI system – yes, I was right, those people were trained straightaway to become cave instructors!!! In the room next door, a different instructor prepared 8 OWD divers to enter the cave. He put all the equipment on the table. On the board, he described what should be done in the cave, from what I understood, the majority of them did not have much experience in swimming in a dry suit and Twin…Looking at all this, I thought it might be safer, if I swam in the cave myself than with newly met partners and so I went to the water. It was not as interesting as with Łukasz and Sasha. My single torch did not light the cave like video lights which we used before could, but also it was great anyway. I swam for the first time to the end of the rope, that is at a distance of 850 meters. The average depth of Orda is 10-12 metres, so it’s not the gases that limit diving, but the temperature. I stayed in the base for a few more days, and my companions grew definitely more interesting, from the commemoration book I found out that Kuba Jacewicz had been there before us, and they had not heard of other Poles so far. The base is well prepared for receiving divers, but it is a better idea to come here using the assistance of a local guide, then everything seems to be nice and easy. Prices are like everywhere and the flight faster than e.g. to Florida. A visa to Russia can be obtained within 3-5 days. I went hitch-hiking to Yekaterinburg and I got there on the 1st of May holiday Yekaterinburg is the 3rd largest town in Russia It is known for the fact that the tsar Romanov family was slain there and that it lies on the border of Asia and Europe For us, divers, it had one more attraction. This is a reservoir after an open pit mine, known as Lazurny, something like Zakrzówek and Hemmor in one. The max. depth is 65 meters, and in the winter water here has 50 meters of transparency. On the last day, we went to dive there. Unfortunately, I could not enjoy such clean water, because the ice broke barely a week earlier, but it was fine nevertheless.